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The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Application of Teleconferencing within the Virginia Department of Highways & Transportation
Michael A. Perfater
Year: 1985
VTRC No.: 85-R36
Abstract: The report presents the findings of a study of the feasibility of using audio teleconferenclng in administrative and technical functions of the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation. The study was, for the most part, an evaluation of 26 audio teleconferences conducted over a one-year period. These teleconferences employed newly purchased teleconferencing equipment located in II Department offices throughout the state and involved 329 people. The largest teleconference had 55 participants and the smallest had 3. The most common uses of the teleconferences were for meetings between district and resident engineers and for the dissemination of information to the district offices. The gross cost savings in travel and nonproductive salary realized from substituting the 26 teleconferences for meetings was estimated using a computer program and found to be $18,000. Further, it was estimated that if more of the numerous meetings between field and Central Office personnel were held by teleconference, savings in excess of $i00,000 per year from the reduction in travel would not be uncommon. Department staff overwhelmingly accepted teleconferenclng as a communications tool. A questionnaire sent to the teleconference participants revealed that two-thlrds of them believed their teleconferences had been as successful as face-to-face meetings, and 90% said teleconferencing would enhance communication within the Department, especially that between the Central Office and the field. It appears that meetings involving information exchange, policy formation, announcements, and statewide and distrlctwide briefings can and should be conducted by teleconference. Meetings at which considerable debate or argumentation is likely to take place are probably best held fac'e to face. Finally, it was concludeed teleconferences are generally significantly shorter than face-to-face meetings, result in participation from persons who might not normally attend due to travel and time constraints, and facilitate quick decision making since the needed information exchange is immediate. On the negative side, open discussion and brainstorming are sometimes suppressed due to lack of visual contact, and deliberations tend to be more formal and less personal. Also, since some people may view travel as a fringe benefit, they may view a reduction in travel opportunities to be a disadvantage.